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  NEXT OF KIN

Australia’s answer to THE SHINING was this stylish and effective chiller, an unusually thoughtful and creepy chunk of 1980s-era Ozploitation.

The Package
     For much of its existence this 1982 gem has been unaccountably neglected, although it was recently brought to peoples’ attention via the popular 2008 documentary NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD. The latter focuses on Australian exploitation, or “Ozploitation,” cinema of the 1970s and 80s, of which NEXT OF KIN (actually a New Zealand co-production) was a sterling and unprecedented example. Director/co-writer Tony Williams and producer Robert Le Tet weren’t very prolific in the Australian film industry before or since this film, which explains its uniqueness.

The Story
     Linda is a young woman returning to her rural childhood home, as her mother has just died and bequeathed her entire estate to Linda. That estate consists of a large retirement home owned by the family for decades.
     Once ensconced in the house Linda (who admittedly feels “unwelcome”) reads her mother’s diary, which recounts several disquieting occurrences that, eerily enough, foreshadow many current events. A diary entry describing an odd man spotted outside the house is paralleled by Linda seeing just such a man. Linda’s ma also describes patients dying unexpectedly, as does an old man on Linda’s watch.
     Linda begins hearing strange noises and seeing spectral figures, just as her mom claims to have. Also like her mom, Linda comes to suspect that the retirement home’s supervisors are up to something untoward. Her suspicions are further inflamed when she discovers a corpse in a fountain outside the house, and another in a wheelchair. It seems Linda may be the next victim, as her mom was before her…

The Direction
     In the annals of Ozploitation this is without question one of the most stylish entries. It’s an extremely stately and refined film, far closer in tone to PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK or the abovementioned SHINING than AUSTRALIA AFTER DARK or MAD MAX. It’s one of two films made by Tony Williams (the other being 1978’s poorly received SOLO), who showed a flair for atmospheric horror; note the profoundly eerie sight of a levitating man outside the heroine’s window, or a close-up of a foot stepping on a drowned man’s head, both pulled off with a maximum of macabre savvy. Williams’ use of wide angle lenses and slow motion is effective in establishing an overall aura of creeping mystery and dread, and he also demonstrates a real talent for old fashioned suspense.
     Yet this film is still an Ozploiter, meaning we get gratuitous sex, a shower scene, some fairly graphic gore (there’s an outrageous inversion of the “Here’s Johnny!” bit from THE SHINING) and even some quintessentially Australian automobile action. But to dismiss NEXT OF KIN as a shallow
splatter/exploitation movie, as many critics initially did, is wrong, as the film was put together with an abundance of care and skill, and deserves to be rediscovered.
 

Vital Statistics

NEXT OF KIN (a.k.a. HELL HOUSE)
SIS/The Film House

Director: Tony Williams
Producer: Robert Le Tet
Screenplay: Michael Heath
Cinematography: Gary Hansen
Editing: Max Lemon
Cast: Jacki Kerin, John Jarratt, Alex Scott, Gerda Nicolson, Charlesa McCallum, Bernadette Gibson, Robert Ratti, Tommy Dysart, Debra Lawrance, Simon Thorpe
 

     

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